Trip Report: Isberg Trail, Ansel Adams Wilderness, Aug 13-14 | High Sierra Topix  

Trip Report: Isberg Trail, Ansel Adams Wilderness, Aug 13-14

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Trip Report: Isberg Trail, Ansel Adams Wilderness, Aug 13-14

Postby bheiser1 » Sun Aug 21, 2011 9:27 pm

This is my first TR on HST - I have been meaning to since I joined a year ago, but haven't gotten in many overnighters. This one was just a quick one-nighter, but enjoyable nonetheless. I know many of you on here know the Sierra like (better than?) your living room - so please forgive me if I describe details that you already know. I know some (like me :)) learn a lot from detailed reports. I hope this one is helpful too.

The Isberg Trail is on the western side of the Ansel Adams Wilderness. It starts ~3 miles east of the Clover Meadow ranger station, and heads up to the Isberg Lakes Pass. Along the way there's a branch that heads up to Hemlock Crossing. My trip was on this branch. Ideally I had hoped to go to Hemlock Crossing, but realistically there just wasn't time.

Before even starting on the trail, it took me over 7.5 hours to reach Clover Meadow from San Francisco. I left late in the day, and traffic was horrible, with lots of stop & go, all the way out to (and over) Altamont Pass. So I arrived at about 1130pm, and quickly found a spot for my tent in the Clover Meadow campground. I chose this place to be near the ranger station the next morning to ensure I could get a wilderness permit. When I arrived, it was late, everyone else was asleep, and I was tired of driving. And I didn't want to move around or use too much light and wake people up. So I grabbed the first spot I found. As it turned out I discovered the next morning that I had set up my tent on a use trail to the rest room ](*,) . That explained why people kept walking through my "site" tripping over the tent.

The next morning I packed up, and found a nice sunny spot on some rocks - and away from the skeeters - to eat breakfast and prepare for my hike. As I ate, a couple friendly gentlemen from neighboring sites stopped by to chat. One was staying in the campground with his family & grandchildren. The other was getting ready for a 5-night backpacking trip himself - and was awaiting some family members so they could start out the next morning. Both gentlemen, coincidentally, revealed to me that they were 75 years of age. This made me feel good - especially the one getting ready for the backpacking trip. As we age I guess it's natural to wonder "how many more trips like this we can take". It was great to see them out there, as I hope (plan) to still be doing this when I'm their age - and beyond.

After breakfast I successfully got my permit from the very nice lady in the ranger station, and headed for the trailhead. Along the way I spontaneously decided to drive a little further to a spot where there's an overlook of the canyon, to remind myself of the lay of the land. I finally made it back to the trailhead, got my stuff together, and got a late start - around 12:30 I think.

This being my first backpack since last summer, I wasn't about to run a marathon. I took my time as I made my way up the mostly steady gradual incline of the trail. Although not bad at the trailhead, the skeeters got progressively heavier as I hiked. It wasn't long before I stopped to slather myself in chemicals.

Any pre-conceived notions I might have had about this being a lightly used area (based on things I'd read online, go figure) were quickly dashed, as I passed a large number of people headed out on the trail. Before long I reached the Niche, a cool rocky area thru which Granite Creek passes, and reached my first crossing.

On previous backpacking trips & day hikes dating back to the late 70's I've always managed to rock hop or use bridges to cross streams/creeks. But reading here about hikers having to wade thru crossings, this time I brought some water shoes - welll, some cheap rubber sandals I happened to have around. As it turned out, these also were very nice to have in camp - so I could take off the hiking boots. Though as it also turned out, cheap doesn't pay ... as one of these sandals literally fell apart while I was wearing it in camp. Oh, and as I discovered later, they also weigh 2 pounds :eek: .

As it turned out, the crossing at Granite Creek did have some rocks which made it possible to cross without wading. But one of them was pretty wet. With my heavy pack I didn't want to risk a plunge into waist-deep water. So I stopped and put on my sandals for a very easy crossing thru water about halfway up my calves. Oh, and as I tossed my hiking boots to the other side, I learned that they float :retard: ... good to know :).
Granite Creek.jpg

Anyway, I continued onward. From here on the mosquitoes got very very heavy. There were lots of marshy/wet areas, one tiny pond, and several smaller creek crossings. I stopped and applied even more repellent along the way. This spot was beautiful, and obviously the mosquitoes thought so too.

As I continued onward, I could tell that I was getting close to the edge of the canyon. For some reason, the trail tends to stay away from the view area, except for a few notable exceptions a little further along. But I was anxious for a view after walking all this way in the trees and clouds of skeeters. So I took a little side trip over to the canyon edge.

The view took my breath away. And as it turned out, even though there was no water, this ended up being my campsite for the night. I really prefer having water nearby - but I had enough to make it thru the night, and I couldn't pass up the opportunity for a nice view site rather than just being in the woods. Plus the skeeters were slightly less bad in this spot - and there was a nice sandy spot where I could pitch my tent without causing any damage. Ohhhh what a view out my bedroom window!!! I did actually go a little further that day - but retreated to this spot as it was a phenomenal site.


So that night I set up camp, made my simple freeze dried dinner, and went to bed. I have no idea what time it was. It had just gotten dark, I was tired ... so I went to bed. I forced myself to avoid checking the time - after all, what did it matter?

The next day I went on a day hike to see more of the area before I had to head for home. I didn't have time to hike all the way to Hemlock Crossing - but did go as far as the overlook where the trail starts the descent down into the canyon. Following are a couple shots from along the way.



As many of you probably know, the view from the overlook is just amazing. Mt Ritter is prominent across the canyon, as are the Minarets. Further to the right (south) is Iron Creek, coming down from Iron Lake (not visible), and Iron Peak. As I sat taking in this majestic view, I felt deeply moved. I thought of John Muir's comments about Hetch Hetchy Valley being like a cathedral. That's how this place felt. I just sat for a while in a meditative state, taking it all in, letting go of other thoughts that entered my mind ... just relaxing. Even now, two weeks later, as I type this, I can remember how I felt in that spot. The wilderness truly is a much needed reprieve from a hectic world.

Here are a few shots from that overlook.

Hemlock Crossing Overlook panorama.jpg

Finally my time was up ... I had to head back. Reluctantly I headed back down the trail. But not before I stopped to photograph more wildflowers along the trail just above the overlook area.


I made my way back to my campsite - packed up - and headed back to the trailhead. Once again, I had to stop and re-apply repellent as I made my way through clouds of skeeters that seemed even heavier than they had on the way up. But, this time, when I got to Granite Creek, I took my chances and crossed on the rocks - I was a little worried about the wet one, but it wasn't too bad.

As I got to within maybe a half or 3/4 miles of the trailhead, I experienced a first for me. I saw my first bear on a hiking trail :bear: . Sure, I've seen bears before - one in a campsite near Ebbetts Pass years ago, one from the car in Yosemite Valley, one from the car in British Columbia ... and in zoos :lol: . But in all my years of hiking, this was the first I'd seen on a trail.

As I hiked along, I heard a crashing sound off to the right. I've heard sounds like this before, but they typically have been either falling branches (or, once, a huge falling tree) ... or little critters. But as I heard the sound, I stopped. Probably a couple hundred feet away I saw the bear on top of a big log. It was very light blonde, with a dark colored snout. I couldn't tell if it had seen me - it was heading away (whew). I just stood there, and it ambled down the other side of the log.

I waited for a moment, then decided to continue on - the bear seemed to be heading away. Just in case, and to be sure I wouldn't surprise it, I started making noise with my (aluminum) trekking poles. And I kept my eye out in the direction of the bear, just in case it came around the log and towards the trail - but i didn't' see it again.

I had rehearsed this moment (my first on-trail bear sighting) in my mind many times. I would stop, survey the situation, and if safe, immediately start taking photos. But no such luck, the "sighting" lasted just a few seconds. Oh well, no photos :(. Well, at least the bear wasn't on the trail hungrily eyeing my pack (or me) :D ...

A short time later, I was back at the trailhead. After finding a spot to clean up a bit, and changing out of my stinky sweaty trail clothes, I was back on the road for home.
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Re: Trip Report: Isberg Trail, Ansel Adams Wilderness, Aug 13-14

Postby The Other Tom » Mon Aug 22, 2011 3:58 am

Great report and pics ! Thanks for taking the time to write this up and post.
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Re: Trip Report: Isberg Trail, Ansel Adams Wilderness, Aug 13-14

Postby windknot » Mon Aug 22, 2011 3:14 pm

Thanks so much for the detailed report! I confess that life always seems to get in the way of my writing a detailed report after I return from a trip, and I'm glad that you found time and energy to write up your trip. Besides providing great reading and viewing for the rest of us, it'll help you jog your memory of your weekend years down the road.
A few backcountry fishing pictures:
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Re: Trip Report: Isberg Trail, Ansel Adams Wilderness, Aug 13-14

Postby guyd » Mon Aug 22, 2011 7:46 pm

It's great to read your TR. It also confirms that we were really lucky to have a bear walking toward us on a trail on our first backpack trip (see 'My Wife's First Backpacking Trip' on this forum)! No time to take pictures of that one neither, but we did of some of the five others we saw.
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Re: Trip Report: Isberg Trail, Ansel Adams Wilderness, Aug 13-14

Postby Shawn » Mon Aug 22, 2011 9:12 pm

Really nice TR and photos. Thanks for making the time to post it. "two thumbs up"
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Re: Trip Report: Isberg Trail, Ansel Adams Wilderness, Aug 13-14

Postby bheiser1 » Tue Aug 23, 2011 9:08 pm

Thanks for all the feedback! The trip reports really do take some time/effort, even for a quick overnighter, but I know they're worth it - I've read more than my share of those prepared by others here :).
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